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Before I had my son, my husband and I said we’d still go out to eat and our child would never act up in a restaurant. I never realized how hard dining out with a toddler would be.
Hold your laughter.
Going out to eat can be a daunting task for parents of toddlers. You have no idea if the meltdown will happen today or if it will be the best meal of your life tricking you into trying to go out to eat again in the very near future.
As adults, we need activities outside the house and going out to a restaurant is just one activity we tend to avoid with children. No one wants to be stared at when your child is throwing an epic fit even though you’re doing everything you possibly can to soothe your kid.
We soon realized that eating out with Rion actually became more difficult the older he got. How in the world do I get my sixteen month old to sit still so we can enjoy a meal? He does it at home sometimes so it has to work out, right?
Here are a few of my tips for you to try with your toddlers while out at a restaurant:
Okay. You’re at a restaurant so you assume they have food for your toddler. No. Just bring your own Cheerios or Puffs to start. Rion will munch on bread if it’s available, but if we’re going out for sushi it’s most definitely not available. Having these snacks on hand can be a fun counting or stacking game, keeping him entertained for a bit while we wait for our food.
Time Of Day
You know your child. Rion loses it at 7PM on the dot. It’s not worth being out past the breaking point and have him get so upset that it makes it difficult to calm him down. He thrives on his routine and doesn’t do well when he’s knocked off.
A lunch is also out of the question. Rion’s nap time is 12:30PM and he’ll let you know at one minute past that he’s not happy with the situation. Lunch is a great time to go to a restaurant though! Not too busy typically and you can get in and out in no time.
We head to a restaurant around 5 or 5:30PM for dinner. This is a great time for our family to sit down and eat. It’s usually not packed at this early hour so we get quick service.
Type of Restaurant
Mistake #1209 of ours: going to a non-kid friendly restaurant with a toddler. We also went out for mussels in broth making the meal incredibly hard to enjoy having to pass back and forth a walking toddler who just wanted to run around.
We didn’t bring the portable high chair clip on seat because don’t all restaurants come with high chairs? No. They all come with changing tables though, right? No. I had to put paper towels all over the bathroom floor to change my toddler.
That was the last time we took Rion to a restaurant that wasn’t kid friendly. We now stick to pubs or call ahead to make sure there’s a kid’s menu and high chair situation. We were totally not prepared the first time and with a little more preparation we can make any restaurant happen.
Bring a few activities for your toddler. We like to bring a few books and his favorite cars if snacks and food will not hold his attention. We love these OBall cars. They’re small and can fit in any bag we take with us to the restaurant.
Last Resort: Electronics
I would never be the parent to just hand over my phone at a restaurant, says the parent who now hands over her phone at a restaurant.
This is always my last resort, but it typically comes out as soon as the waiter or waitress drops the food if he’s not into his toys or food. Mama’s gotta eat, so ten minutes of Daniel Tiger won’t hurt him as I scarf down the food I am paying for.
Practice makes perfect. The only way to conquer going out to eat is to go out to eat. We’re not experts by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ve gone out to a restaurant at least once a month in the past year and a half. We know what will work and what won’t work. We now when to go and when we should avoid. We know what restaurants we should go to and which we should hire a sitter for.
Do you have any additional tips that help you get through a meal at a restaurant with your children?